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Women In Aviation Science Interview | Sofia Kalakou



Today we meet Sofia Kalakou from ISCTE - Instituto Universitário de Lisboa who participates in both projects, RefMap and ImAFUSA. As a part of our campaign “Women In Aviation Science”, she answered our questions, such as how she got involved in the projects, her role as the coordinator at ImAFUSA, and the importance of women's leadership in her field. Let’s read what she had to say.


How did you initially become involved with ImAFUSA & REFMAP, and what motivated you to contribute your expertise to these projects?

I was invited to the RefMap project by one of the project partners, namely Future Needs Management Consulting Ltd. with the objective to develop the business dimension of the project´s outputs, the invitation was very attractive as the project deals with the timing topic of environmental performance of aviation and it is imperative to develop tools that will turn aviation a sustainable means for Europe again, overcoming the barriers of emissions and noise, for example. Aviation remains the fastest means of transport and the last 3 decades have allowed people to connect, share experiences, explore new environments, and reinforce the united European character of EU countries. For this reason, it is imperative to turn it viable, environmentally and economically, to all citizens again.


Driven by the vision of the introduction of socially acceptable technologies and operations, innovative aerial services in particular, in urban and rural life, we aimed to suggest a new approach to mobility and technology projects.


Regarding the ImAFUSA project, we co-created with another partner (Future Needs Management Consulting Ltd) the main idea and objective of the project and then started inviting our future partners. Driven by the vision of the introduction of socially acceptable technologies and operations, innovative aerial services in specific, in urban and rural life, we aimed to suggest a new approach to mobility and technology projects. Our aim was a shift to a holistic approach of deploying technologies in cities and the provision of relevant tools to the decision-makers so that they are better equipped to introduce innovative aerial services, in our case, in a manner that is aligned with citizens´ needs and expectations.


In your role within ImAFUSA & REFMAP, how do you contribute to the project's mission?

I am the coordinator of the ImAFUSA project and my weekly activities in the project include the coordination of the internal team at my university, the coordination of the project partners´ activities, the alignment of the project´s development with the funding agency´s expectations and evolution, the contribution of our outputs to the EC´s strategic agenda for research and development and practice, the participation to events of the funding agency or other schemes among others.


Are there any women in the same field who have inspired you in your career? How have they influenced your path?

Since my early steps in transport research, I had the pleasure of collaborating with other women who held either academic positions or industrial positions and were outnumbered by men in the aviation environment. It was their experience and professional paths that encouraged me to pursue similar activities.


How has your involvement with the 2 projects contributed to your professional growth and skills development?

The interdisciplinarity of the projects and the partners endows a multifaceted work plan. Executing the work plan´s activities requires technical skills but managing the people who execute the activities requires soft skills such as empathy, understanding, support, and constructive criticism. Leading one of the projects in this context forces me to create collaborative and complementary teams that can respond to the requirements of the projects that match engineering, economic and social sciences.  


It was their [womens’] experience and professional paths that encouraged me to pursue similar activities


Looking ahead, what are your hopes and expectations for ImAFUSA's role in the UAM field and REFMAP’s role in sustainable aviation?

Both projects contribute to the development of tools that will make aviation more innovative and more environmentally friendly. The value that both projects bring to science, society, and industry is that they emphasise the social aspects of engineering systems and contribute overall to making cities and inhabited environments in general, more sustainable, and more inclusive, and increase equity while balancing business development. 


What message or advice would you like to share with women who aspire to work in this scientific field, especially those interested in making a positive impact on the environment?

“Identify your work principles, support your opinions with arguments, serve a purpose with your actions and you will find your path and destination”.

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